Monday, a day when the first African-American president signed a bill into action that forbids LGBT workplace discrimination, another African-American, who happened to be the first to win a Super Bowl as a head coach, told the Tampa Tribune he would not draft Michael Sam for his team because it would be a distraction.
For this comment and this comment alone, I question Coach Dungy’s ability to contemplate what it’s like to coach in today’s NFL. How long will it be before Dungy sets his eyes on the bigger picture of letting all individuals live their truth instead of making comments that push them to live lies? Dungy hasn’t coached since 2008 and is currently an NBC Sports analyst.
Remember, Tony Dungy was one of the biggest backers of Michael Vick. He not only met with the quarterback, who was in prison for his role in a dog-fighting ring, but also championed his NFL comeback.
"Michael deserves the chance to show people he has changed and learned from past mistakes, but my true hope is that he will make sound decisions about his future and, at the same time, let people know more about the person that I’ve come to know recently,” Dungy wrote in a blog post at that time. “I know the public will be skeptical, but I think, over time, people will find there’s a different side to him than what they’ve seen so far. And that’s really my goal, to help him let people see the other side of Michael Vick."
If a high-profile player like Mike Vick could rise to glory after such a far fall, Mike Sam is a cake walk. The only distractions that exist are issues that the leaders of a team let distract the player.
How could Dungy back Vick and have issues with Sam? His comments prove that his beliefs no longer belong on a sideline … at any level.
The NFL is a different place today than it was when Dungy coached. As much esteem and acclaim that Dungy received for his memoir, "Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices and Priorities of a Winning Life," you must equally scrutinize the man — known as a coach’s coach — for the comments he made about Sam.
Dungy is known for putting faith and family before football. He knows, appreciates and understands that football is not everything. What’s more, he knows that before you can be great at anything, you must have a foundation of morals, principles, integrity and commitment.
Dungy preaches: "Nothing great happens after midnight." Well, Michael Sam has never been in trouble with the law and is a stand-up citizen.
Dungy also shared these beliefs in his book:
"… You can have an impact anywhere you are. … We need somebody to give us a chance."
I agree 100 percent, but this doesn’t exclude people who are gay, African-American, short or women. Anyone.
"… We have a number of difficulties facing our nation, but I believe fatherlessness is right at the top of the list."
It’s not about color or sexuality. There is something larger here at stake for society and the world to see.
How many deadbeat dads did you encounter while in the NFL, Mr. Dungy? Michael Sam wants to be a father and have three children. He already knows what he wants to name them, as well.
"… Sometimes I think God wants there to be a circus so we can show there’s another way to respond."
This quote is exactly what Rams coach Jeff Fisher is following! A gay player doesn’t need to be a distraction. Branch Rickey understood this fact more than 60 years ago. It’s not about color or sexuality. There is something larger here at stake for society and the world to see.
Knowing that Dungy often is consulted when difficult situations arise in the NFL, whether it is Jonathan Martin reaching out to Dungy on the bullying incident in Miami or Eagles coach Chip Kelly reaching out to him on the Riley Cooper incident, and because he’s one of the greatest coaches of our time, it is from an astronomically high pedestal that these words fall on our ears today.
The reality is the time had long come for an openly gay player to be in the National Football League. In the same way, the time had more than come when Dungy and Lovie Smith coached against each other in the Super Bowl after the 2006 season.
When I played in that game, the biggest of my life at that time, as sad as I was to lose, I thought inside, "Wow, history is being made."
Smith and Dungy were the first African-Americans to coach in a Super Bowl; one was going to win and one would lose, but you never will be able to take that accomplishment away from either.
Smith has returned to the sidelines with Tampa Bay, trying to win a Super Bowl. For all his success and acclaim, I can’t see Dungy taking a similar place again.